Stuttering and Homosexuality: The moments of vulnerability.

My last day on the McGuire programme involved a final session with our families joining us to see the results of the intensive four days. It was a great session and I still get emotional thinking about it. It was freeing and exciting. We all got to say something and one graduate commented that making disclosures and standing up in front of a room must be what "coming out" as gay must feel like. That comment hit home with me. I was gay and in the closet. At that time, I had a plan to deal with my speech first and then take on being gay...once I was a fluent speaker. Not a great plan in hindsight. 

But taking this blog back to the subject of masculinity, dropping shields and being vulnerable is as risky as Optimus Prime trusting Megatron, or Buck encountering the sexy space princess without his laser blaster. However, as I write and share these blogs, the more convinced I am that being a man is more about being authentic rather than faking it. Faking being straight or faking being fluent is stressful and exhausting and it takes a real man to muster up the courage and tell the world who they really are. 

In both cases, I have always felt anxious about disclosures for different reasons. As a recovering stutterer, you don't have to actually disclose. You can talk using learnt techniques, which equates to stuttering on purpose. It becomes pretty obvious to anyone listening that you have a challenge with your speech. Disclosing a stutter through, is taking ownership of it and assures the listener that you have it under control rather than the stutter having you. It can still be nerve-racking. Do you disclose this in a job interview? Are you going to reduce your chances of being seen as a competent professional? You will get a polite "oh, it makes no difference" but I would be suspicious of that response. What do people really think? Do you tell someone you stutter on a first date? People have told me having a stutter is "adorable". Not an adjective I would equate with it. As it goes against the masculine archetype of being strong and confident. Again, is it really adorable or just lip service? I know it is about faith and by owning it, I am stepping into my masculinity. 

The emotional dance related to disclosing your sexuality and the coming out process, for me, was almost identical to my experience of embracing my stutter. It is necessary. I firmly believe you have to own your sexuality, and you have to do it in your own time too. Whether that is early in life or later. When you tell someone that you are gay, there is a moment, a moment of silence, a moment that can last an eternity. Every time I disclose my sexuality I hear the familiar questions running around my head. "Will I be rejected?" "Will I be attacked." "Get ready to run." "It doesn't matter what they think." The final question is always the kicker. "I hate having to do this, it is not fair. Straight people don't have to do this." I admit it gets easier but it is never easy. It takes something every time. 

In my youth, I would do anything to avoid having to sit in that moment of authentic honesty. I continue to find myself squirming in it now. Cursing my own stupidity for putting pen to paper and launching a book with "stuttering homosexual" in it's title. Aging has mellowed me slightly though. Grey hairs and lingering feelings of missing out aside, getting older brings a serene freedom. I am discovering that no one really cares and those moments of authenticity are a gift. They get me closer to who I am. No more running or avoiding. No more trying to be something I am not, or trying to impress anyone other than myself. No one can ever take that away, not a giant alien robot, or a man in his talking car.

It's funny you know, after all these years of hearing the same advice, it is finally beginning to make sense. To paraphrase a wise friend; we get to define our own sexuality. And by extension, I am saying we also get to define our own masculinity. Sure, I'd love the muscles and hairy chest. I'd probably never stop looking at myself or caressing my furry pecs if I had them. But being a man goes deeper. Strip it all away, and what are you left with? Long-time readers know I am a huge fan of the sci-fi show Babylon 5. The show was built around two fundamental questions. "Who are you?" and "What do you want?" 

Answer those questions for yourself and I believe you will find your own masculinity.

That is what makes a real man in 2018.